The latest chapter of the USA-Mexico grudge match is closed, and both teams earned a well-deserved point for their efforts. The United States is certainly happy about the result and now sits in third place in the CONCACAF standings. On the other hand, there may be some doubt creeping into the Mexican team, as it has now squandered two chances to earn maximum points in the comforting confines of Azteca Stadium.
Of course, there are plenty of things to be taken away from this heated rivalry match. Here are just a few talking points.
The United States Can Play Up to Its Opposition
The expectation was that the United States would get steamrolled by Mexico. If the score line was not a blowout, then the expectation was that Mexico would dominate possession and shots on target.
But the United States generally plays its best when counted out, and the match against Mexico was no exception. Center backs Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez were seen pointing and communicating with teammates the entire night, and perhaps not surprisingly the Americans pulled off a strong defensive performance.
Yes, the United States plays the "underdog" role well, but unfortunately this match is the only time it can truly consider itself that character. In the remaining matches, the main objective will be more than just frustrating the opposing attackers, and the expected "positive" result will be more than just one point.
Mexico Has Taken World Cup Qualifying for Granted
The Mexican team is not naive enough to think that it can just show up to World Cup qualifying and win on talent alone. But the fact remains that Mexico is yet to put together a full 90 minutes of the soccer that it is capable of playing.
The Mexico that came out in the second half of the match against the United States is a lock to qualify for Brazil 2014. So was the Mexico that had Honduras beaten in the first 60 minutes of its previous World Cup qualifying match.
But Mexico’s inability to impose its will on the opposition for a full 90 minutes is the reason why Mexico currently sits outside of the top three places, and with a seemingly endless string of young talent coming up, there may be some major changes made to infuse some urgency into the Mexico lineup.
Jurgen Klinsmann Is Not the Star
If there is anything to take away from the criticism of Jurgen Klinsmann leading up to the recent World Cup qualifying matches, it is that Klinsmann is a conceptualist, not a tactician. Jurgen Klinsmann was not hired to tell Michael Bradley exactly where to stand on the field or reinvent "Total Football," but rather to push the individual players into a standard that will make them unafraid of a spotlight like Azteca Stadium in a World Cup qualifier.
We are learning that Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley are becoming the leaders of this team, and it likely stems from the fact that they exist in professional, high-intensity football environments every day for 10 months of the year.
Klinsmann understands that his time with the players is limited, and that is why he pushes his players to become better outside of his personal care. Klinsmann is here to raise the standard, and he even exemplified that in his response to the criticism. And the players showed that if they take accountability for their own progress and professionalism, they can get the results necessary to qualify for an eighth consecutive World Cup.